Ed. Note: This article is part of our series on technologies useful to those wanting to work from home, temporarily, or in the longer term. Each article in the series discusses a specific type of technology, with real-world examples of the types of businesses that can use and benefit from them.
Does your business or organization use faxes?
While email and web are used throughout society today, faxes and fax machines still have their place for a number of organizations. If your business requires that someone must be at the office to receive or send a fax, then you aren’t prepared for working at home. There’s a better way to do this, that gives you the best of all worlds.
Cloud faxing simply means that faxes can be sent or received through the Internet rather than via a fax machine via a phone line. There are a number of brands of cloud fax services available for many years – the most well-known is called “eFax.” They range in price, reliability, scalability (being able to handle a surge), and feature capabilities. But, for the core cloud faxing features, they generally work in a similar way.
What is a fax, anyway?
A traditional (physical) fax machine is a scanner, printer, and “modem” combined into one unit. The modem takes the scan data (which is digital) and turns it into those sounds you hear when you send a fax. The fax machine on the other end “listens” to those sounds, and translates them back into data, and then the result is printed.
Cloud fax services, at their core, remove the scanner and printer portion and let you rely on your desktop computer, smart phone, scanner (when needed) and printer (when needed). In fact, other than the computer or phone you already have, you do not need any “hardware” or equipment to use cloud fax.
How does it work?
Let’s say you have a contract that you’d like to send a client or customer. You typically might use a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word, to create the document. And if using a physical fax machine, you would print it out, take it to the fax, scan it, touch in the phone number and send it off.
Sending via Cloud Fax
With cloud faxing, you would either email it with specific information specified as to where you wanted it faxed, or you’d use a web site to upload the file and send it. As a general rule, sending a fax in this way will end up with a higher quality document on the receiving end. The person receiving the fax won’t know the difference as it just comes to them as any fax would.
Receiving via Cloud Fax
What may be even more important for someone working remote is receiving a fax. There’s two main ways that this works. A fax gets sent, and it goes to the cloud service who either emails it to you, or if you need it in a more secure fashion, allows you to view or download it from their web site.
But everyone knows my fax number, I can’t change it!
This is probably the single greatest mental barrier to change on cloud fax. It’s simple. Cloud fax providers can “port” your existing number to their service – BUT … and an important BUT – it takes a little while (e.g., weeks) to do. In the transition, you can simply use “call forwarding” on your existing phone line to the cloud fax temporary number. With that, you can be up and running on cloud fax typically in a day or two.
Want a New Number?
The larger cloud fax providers have not only toll free numbers you can use, but you can choose a number in many, if not most, area codes so that your fax number looks local. It’s up to you, and it’s often included in the cost.
The Cooler Stuff
Once you’ve gone to cloud fax, you can get a number of benefits that you’d never be able to do with a physical machine. For example, now you can send and receive faxes from your phone. Or you can have multiple people in your office be able to use the one fax number, not just the person that is sitting next to the fax machine.
Or, let’s say someone send you a fax, and you’re at home, or out and about and it needs a signature. Some services offer the ability to sign the document, right on your phone, with your finger and send it back.
And, once you’ve started to use cloud fax, you realize that you can organize them for you, or the others that share the system to search on recipients, or keywords, or even “tags” that you can organize them with. Better yet, those faxes can be stored in the cloud so that you can access them from anywhere, at any time, on any computer or phone … as long as you have your login information.
You can even setup address books, multiple email addresses to send and receive faxes with, integrate with popular cloud storage apps that you might already be using like Dropbox, OneDrive, iCloud and Google Drive.
If you’re the type of organization that has regulatory compliance or security needs, a quality fax service will give you all the acronyms you need with TLS and 256-bit encryption, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, SOX, GLBA, PCI & others.
Finally, if you are a larger organization, there’s tools available to manage a number of users, monitor (and control) their usage, and even ways to “integrate” with your existing technology systems.
Compared to the cost of having a phone line at your office, not to mention the cost of the fax machine itself, cloud fax is very cost effective, and likely will save you money if you ultimately drop the extra phone line at your office. Buyer beware, however, the bargain basement providers may have a tough time during busy times of the year, let alone when there’s a sudden surge of people working at home.
Hope that gives you an overview of cloud faxing!
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